<
>

NFC North roundtable: Best team

4/2/2015

The Green Bay Packers have won the NFC North for four straight years, yet you'll have a hard time getting everyone in the division to admit that they're still chasing Aaron Rodgers and Co.

At the NFL annual meetings last week, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell wouldn't go that far.

"It's a new year," Caldwell told reporters in Phoenix. "It's a new year. Everything changes."

Our NFC North reporters – Rob Demovsky (Packers), Ben Goessling (Vikings), Michael Rothstein (Lions) and Michael C. Wright (Bears) – feel differently. When discussing the best team in the division, at this point, all agree it's still the Packers.

Here's why:

Demovsky: Put it this way, little or nothing that’s happened since the end of last season – when the Packers were merely minutes away from beating the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game – to make coach Mike McCarthy's team worse. As long as quarterback Aaron Rodgers is healthy and on top of his game, which he was last season on the way to winning the NFL's MVP award, there's little reason to think anyone can overtake the Packers. Heck, even when Rodgers was out for half of the 2013 season, the Packers won the division anyway.

Goessling: It's still the Packers. They lost a couple of cornerbacks (Tramon Williams and Davon House) in free agency, and as usual, they're going to have some questions on defense. But this is a team that dominated the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field for 55 minutes before an epic meltdown. Even Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, whose team might be the fastest riser in the NFC North, wasn't ready to say his team has closed the gap yet last week at the NFL owners meetings and called the Packers the standard the Vikings were trying to reach. Maybe the shock from the NFC title game loss will linger in Lambeau through 2015, but with the entire offense intact around Rodgers, the Packers are still the class of the division.

Rothstein: Until there's a reason to think otherwise, it's Green Bay. The Packers brought back two critical pieces in Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga and that will continue offensive continuity for the next few years. Green Bay continues to have the best quarterback in the division in Aaron Rodgers and as long as Rodgers remains healthy, the Packers will be contenders in the division and the NFC. There are some questions with how the franchise will replace House and Williams, but the division's best defense – Detroit – took a hit with the departure of Ndamukong Suh to Miami. The Lions didn't make any upgrades on offense, either, so until there is proof on the field, Green Bay remains the class of the NFC North.

Wright: A quick look at our free-agent tracker tells you all you need to know about this division and why the Green Bay Packers are the best team in it. Green Bay hasn't signed a single player from another team in free agency, yet teams around the league have signed a total of seven former Packers. What does that tell you? Easy, the Packers do a tremendous job of drafting players and developing them, which explains partially how Green Bay has put together double-digit win seasons in five of the last six years. Yeah, yeah, we know the quarterback has a lot to do with it, too. Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota so far have brought in a total of 17 free agents from other teams, with the Bears leading the way with 11 new faces. Green Bay maintains its level of success through continuity on the roster, which is achieved by drafting well, developing the talent, and rewarding those players when it's time. Detroit might be gaining a little ground on the Packers, but no other team in the division has built as much continuity throughout the organization as Green Bay. Until that happens, the Packers, hands down, remain the best in the NFC North.